Crossing Lines in the Twitter Debate on Catalonia’s Independence


Work data:

ISSN: 1940-1620

Type of work: Article (academic)


e-Democracy | e-Politics | Politics and Political Science | Social Media & Social Software


twitter, catalonia


The effect of social media as a potential sphere for public deliberation still remains unclear. For some analysts, social media can create a vibrant space for political discussion, whereas others believe they do not provide the right conditions for meaningful interaction and could even have negative effects on public opinion by, for instance, fostering communication within isolated enclaves. Focusing on the debate surrounding Catalonia’s secession, this article analyses the interaction on Twitter between the opposite sides of this divisive political issue. Carefully based on a nonbiased random sampling procedure, we describe Twitter conversations through network and content analyses, using both indicators of the structure of conversations and opinion diversity. Remarkably, we find that Twitter users cross lines of difference and interact with people holding opposing views. Through a regression analysis, we show that the level of reciprocity, understood as repeated interaction and measured by the depth of the conversation, is explained by heterogeneity and associated with a higher involvement of the pro-independence side. However, if heterogeneity is combined with extremism, the development of longer conversations is severely cut. Overall, this article points toward the actual use of social media as a space for cross-cutting communication and debate despite strong disagreement.